Wednesday, June 14, 2006     « Public Bathroom II | The True Meaning of Pictures »


Last night we watched "The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia." We had a good discussion afterward about the definition of "documentary", the responsibility of the photographer, and the way people interpret images. This is interesting stuff to me especially as I try and resolve how to go about photographing people. I am also a big fan of documentary whether the medium is film, or photography. The show we are making has an aspect of documentary-style about it and that has also had me thinking about this stuff.

I am more specific in my definition of documentary than Davin. My feeling is that if you are constructing scenerios and posing people it is not documentary. I'd maybe call it portraiture. I don't think there is any way that a photographer can walk into a situation with even the basics (a camera) and not have some effect on what happens next. Once people become aware of a camera it is impossible or very near impossible to carry on without regard for its presence. I also think that photographers make all sorts of choices when they take pictures. Those choices don't necessarily effect my definition of documentary. I am not such a purist that I think documenting a moment or a context must be devoid of all style and choice on the part of the "capturer." But I do think there is a line.

I don't have a problem with Shelby Lee Adams' depictions of Appalachian people. My overall feeling is that the subjects have given their consent and as adults they are capable of making that decision for themselves. They know what he is doing, they make the choice to participate, and they see the photos after-the-fact. My only issue is that they don't meet my personal definition or criteria as documentary.

What do ya'll think?

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